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Hottest team in baseball? Not if O’s have a say

Baltimore arms shut out Nats' bats in impressive fashion
@JoeTrezz
August 28, 2019

WASHINGTON -- At multiple points in the middle innings on Tuesday, right-hander Aaron Brooks had retired six of his past eight, then 10 of 12, then 13 of 15. His opponent, lefty Patrick Corbin, had set down 15 straight, then 17 of 18. Nearing the final lap of an Orioles

WASHINGTON -- At multiple points in the middle innings on Tuesday, right-hander Aaron Brooks had retired six of his past eight, then 10 of 12, then 13 of 15. His opponent, lefty Patrick Corbin, had set down 15 straight, then 17 of 18. Nearing the final lap of an Orioles season defined by struggles on the mound, the opener of the last leg of this year’s Beltway Series evolved into the rarest of evenings: a legitimate duel between two pitchers who barely let the other blink.

It was with this as a backdrop that the Orioles secured their 2-0 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday behind a dominant Brooks and Hunter Harvey, who headlined a collective effort in shutting out one of baseball’s hottest teams at Nationals Park.

Box score

Brooks scattered two singles while striking out six over six shutout innings in what was his best effort in an Orioles uniform, before Harvey wiggled out of a bases loaded eighth-inning jam and Mychal Givens shut the door in the ninth. In doing so, they silenced an offense that had averaged 8.6 runs per game over its past 14 contests, 12 of them wins.

“I loved the way we pitched,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s a great win. That’s a really good ballclub, a playoff ballclub, the hottest team in baseball, coming off a sweep on the road and scoring 10 runs a game. To be able to come in and put zeros up for nine innings, it’s a testament to our pitchers. I think some of our guys are getting better.”

That’s certainly true of Brooks, who, in beating Corbin, out-dueled a pitcher who has posted a 2.16 ERA since mid-June. Brooks entered with a 6.21 mark, bloated to 8.07 since coming over from Oakland on a waiver claim in July. He’s now held opponents to one run in 11 innings over his past two starts, winning both of them.

The shutout was Baltimore’s first on the road since June 20, 2018, also at Nationals Park.

“It was about changing speeds and eye levels,” Brooks said. “Timing is everything, and I just try to disrupt the timing and fill the zone as much as I can.”

Said Washington right fielder Adam Eaton: “He kind of kept us off-balance all night.”

Brooks had a lead because of Anthony Santander’s RBI double and Jonathan Villar’s sac fly in the first inning, but Corbin went toe to toe with the Orioles right-hander after that. Corbin struck out nine, walked none and didn’t allow a runner to reach scoring position outside of his first five batters, eventually completing seven superb innings. But the southpaw took the loss in part because Harvey, tasked with holding a two-run lead in the eighth, wiggled free of a mess of his own making in impressive fashion.

“That was pretty fun,” Harvey said. “Especially since I had the crowd going crazy.”

Harvey allowed a one-out triple to Trea Turner and walked Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to load the bases, but he won an eight-pitch battle with Eaton and struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to finish the frame. His fastball eclipsed 98 mph 16 times in the six-batter span, with Harvey gearing up to 98.5 mph to get Cabrera swinging with his 33rd pitch of the night.

“I think [Harvey] challenged him,” Hyde said of Rendon, whom he called “a great, great player.”

“But didn’t challenge him in the middle, which is fantastic. He did the same thing with Soto, who is another superstar player that’s swinging the bat really well right now too. I love the fact that he was able to, after those walks, bases loaded, crowd’s loud, to be able to compose himself and make pitches to Cabrera. It shows a lot of maturity.”

For Harvey, it was the latest in a line of tests the rookie right-hander has passed with aplomb. Handle a hostile environment in Fenway Park for your MLB debut? Check. Preserve a late-inning tie for your first MLB win? Check. Hold a two-run lead and hand the ball to Givens? Harvey’s now done all three. The next frontier might be closing, given how Hyde said he “wants Hunter to experience Major League Baseball at the end of the game.”

“That was just getting a little taste,” Harvey said. “Everybody pitched good today, and that’s what we need to do if we eventually want to be a contending team, and I think that’s a good start.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.